This morning, Yelp unveiled new features: Yelp Connect, a social feature for restaurants, and updates to Yelp Waitlist.
According to a press release sent to The Spoon, Yelp Connect is a subscription service that lets businesses share information — drink specials, menu updates, upcoming events — with followers in much the same manner they would on any other social network. The feature, priced at $199/month for restaurants, aims to give businesses more control over their own Yelp page by letting them share information they feel will be most relevant to current and potential customers.
Also today, Yelp Waitlist, which lets users “get in line” from their phones and has been around for some time, launched two new features. Predictive Wait Time gathers restaurant data to show users, via a handy bar chart, how long the wait time is at any given hour at a restaurant. Waitlist’s other new feature, Notify Me, lets people schedule a reminder on Yelp to join a waitlist. A user specifies when they want to dine and how many people will be in their party. Using data based on the current wait time at the restaurant, Yelp will then notify the user when it’s time to join the in order to get a table at the desired time. Waitlist starts at $249/month for restaurants.
Both of these are great news if you’re a diehard Yelp user who wants a single app to the find the latest updates on a favorite restaurant and skip waiting in line to eat there.
If you’re not, however, these updates don’t seem particularly competitive at first glance, nor are they particularly unique. Waitbusters, for example, has long had a platform that lets guests “get in line” without, you know, getting in line, and also offers some data analytics for restaurants. At $129/month, it’s a good deal cheaper than Yelp’s offering.
Then there’s Google, with whom Yelp has had a longtime rivalry. Via Maps, restaurant-goers can follow favorite eating establishments, read reviews, join a waitlist, and, yep, view busy times via a bar graph. Meanwhile, Google has also added features in 2019 like menu recognition via Google Lens and a Maps feature that lets you parse through photos and reviews of popular dishes.
Yelp itself has been plagued by controversies, plunging stocks, and increased competition from social media sites like Facebook and Instagram over the years. Unfortunately, a few more incremental updates won’t give the company an edge in this fight. Instead, they feel a bit like a case of too little, too late.